By Andy Stine
Richland girls soccer head coach Nathan Gironda said after Thursday’s District 6 Class A semifinal game that his team has had trouble putting the ball in the net throughout the season.
Better late than never for the Lady Rams.
Richland, the third seed in the bracket, took a 2‑0 lead into halftime before its offense exploded in the second half. Bri Meyer cashed in on a hat trick to lead the Lady Rams into the district championship game with an 8‑0 shutout over West Branch.
“All we’ve been doing is working on our offense and trying to finish goals and putting ourselves in a position to finish goals,” said Gironda. “We’ve been getting closer and closer and closer, but as a group we haven’t been scoring all year. I was really happy to see it finally click tonight.
“It was good for the girls because we have not scored a lot of goals this year. It was nice to finally get that explosion.”
The Lady Rams wasted no time in cracking the scoreboard as junior forward Karissa Wellington gave her a team a 1‑0 lead. Sam Hauser found the speedy Wellington downfield and sprinted past Lady Warrior defenders on her way to the goal.
Sophia Franze put in Richland’s second goal of the night at 22:39 to take a 2‑0 lead, which stayed until halftime.
Meyer earned her first goal just 2:03 into the second half on an assist from Wellington. Allison Patula, who scored the lone goal in the quarterfinal game against Moshannon Valley on Tuesday evening, drilled in her second goal of the playoffs.
“When we got a goal or two, I think the pressure just went away,” said Gironda. “Once the pressure went away, they started finishing balls that they would not have finished earlier in the year, even two nights ago (against Moshannon Valley). I think there was a little bit of a confidence issue there. All of a sudden when they saw it work, they started doing it even more.”
“We’ve had a difficult season to begin with, but to end up like this, I feel bad for the girls,” said West Branch head coach Clark Dale.
“They didn’t deserve it. We just pretty much ran into a buzzsaw tonight.
“They fought their hearts out, but it’s almost like Richland was playing with an extra person on the field. They were just everywhere.”
Sami Felton scored just moments after Patula’s goal before Meyer put in the next two for the hat trick.
“That’s great,” said Gironda. “It’s her senior year. She’s had a lot of success this year. She’s a first-year varsity player. To see her get a hat trick in a varsity game, it couldn’t happen to a better girl.”
Nikki Fisher put in the final goal with 58 seconds left in the game to set the final.
Courtney Syfert had seven saves in the match for the Lady Rams.
West Branch finished its season at 10‑8‑1.
The Lady Rams (10‑8‑2) will play Bishop Guilfoyle on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. The Lady Marauders blanked Bishop McCort, 4‑0, on Thursday evening.
“That’s our goal every year,” said Gironda. “This will be our sixth district final in a row. If we’re not here, we’re not happy. It’s nice to be there with a team that at some points this year, we didn’t know if we were going to be there.”